6 Dec 2013

Maori leaders pay respects to Madiba

7:47 pm on 6 December 2013

Nelson Mandela was a man of great mana who influenced all indigenous people worldwide, Maori leaders say.

Mr Mandela, South Africa's first black president and anti-apartheid icon, died in Johannesburg on Thursday night. He was 95.

Nanaia Mahuta.

Nanaia Mahuta. Photo: RNZ

Hauraki-Waikato MP Nanaia Mahuta and Tuku Morgan, a spokesperson for the office of the Maori King, were at Turangawaewae Marae at Ngaruawahia when Mr Mandela visited in 1995.

Mr Morgan says it was a day the people will never forget. The excitement was palpable as thousands of Maori and Pakeha filled the marae, coming to see a man who led his country away from a racially segregated society.

Mr Mandela was a member of a Xhosa clan, and was often known by his Xhosa clan name Madiba.

He was imprisoned for 27 years for anti-apartheid activism before being released and becoming the country's first black president.

Ms Mahuta says his visit to New Zealand was symbolic, as Tainui had reached an historic land settlement just a few weeks earlier.

She says the people of Turangawaewae will always remember him as a man of great dignity, quiet conviction and mana - and as a man who ensured his people could have a say in their own country.